During the time of Lord Buddha, there lived a wealthy merchant called Anatha-pindika. He was a great devotee of the Buddha and spent fifty-four crores building a monastery at Jeta-vana. He visited the Lord three times a day, and the Buddha often came to his house with his brotherhood.
This merchant had a house seven storeys high with seven gateways. Over the fourth gateway lived a heretic fairy with her brood of children. She never liked the Buddha to come to the house.
So, one day, she took on the form of a human being, went to the merchant’s manager and said, “Why do you invite the Buddha to this house? You will suffer for it.”
The manager abused her and sent her away. Then she went to the merchant’s son, said the same thing to him, and got used by him too.
There was nothing else she could do, and she abided by her time.
The merchant’s spending was lavish. He did not attend to business. In addition, the other merchants borrowed eighteen crores from him, which he never demanded. He had another eighteen crores of treasure buried on the banks of the river Achira-vati, and the sealed pots were washed into the sea by great floods.
On account of all these mishaps, the merchant became poor. He still went on feeding the monks, but there were no great feasts anymore. One day, the Buddha asked Anatha-pindika, “Are you still giving gifts?”
“Yes, sir,” the merchant replied, distressed. “But it is only gruel that I give now.”
“Do not worry, friend,” the Buddha said, seeing the merchant in distress. “When the heart is good, the gift is bound to be good, even if it is gruel.”
Now that the merchant had become poor, the heretic fairy thought it bold to face him.
She appeared before Anatha-Pindika and said, “Give up this Buddha even now. Look to your business and regain your lost wealth. I am the fairy that lives on your fourth gateway. I advise you for your good.”
“Get out of my house at once,” Anatha-Pindika said to her.
“I will certainly go,” she said. “I will not remain here when I can find much better houses.” She left Anatha-pindika’s house with her children and searched for another place.
Despite all her efforts, she failed to find a house as good as the one she had left. She wanted to go back to her original place. But not knowing how to do so, she consulted the Deity of the City.
“You made a great blunder in leaving the merchant’s house,” the Deity of the City said to her. “If you want to get back there, take on the appearance of the agent of Anatha-pindika and collect the eighteen crores which the merchants owe him. Then rescue the sealed pots which were washed into the sea. The merchant has another property worth eighteen crores, which no one knows. It is in such and such a place; restore it to him. Then go to Anatha-pindika and beg him to let you into his house.”
The heretic fairy put this advice into practice. She collected the eighteen crores that the merchants owed Anatha- pindika. She recovered the lost treasure from the sea. Then she restored the unknown property also to Anatha-Pindika and said. “Sir, I apologize for what I did. Kindly pardon me, and permit me to live in your house as before.”
“Submit your apology before the Buddha,” Anatha-pindika told the heretic fairy.
So she went with Anatha- pindika to the monastery at Jeta-vana. She told the Buddha everything and submitted her apology to him.
Having heard her, the Lord spoke thus:
“The one who does evil thinks he is doing good until his actions bear fruit. He knows the truth only when he has to eat the bitter fruit of his actions. Similarly, the one who does good thinks that he is doing evil. He, too, knows the truth only when his actions bear fruit. This heretic fairy is an example of the first type. She thought that she was doing good. This Anatha-Pindika is an example of the second type. He was distressed because he thought that he was doing evil. The good and the evil of both actions were known only when the actions bore fruit!”
Having heard from the Lord, the heretic fairy changed her outlook. She stopped hating the Buddha, returned to the fourth gateway of Anatha-pindika’s house and lived there with her brood.